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Domestic partners have same federal rights as married couples

Domestic partners who are registered in Washington have similar rights and responsibilities as married couples. The United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June, which also led to a change in the Internal Revenue Service policy. The IRS now recognizes legal same sex marriages, regardless of whether the marriage is considered legal in the state where the couple resides. A same-sex couple that registers their marriage in one state where it is legal but resides in a state where their marriage is not recognized will have the same benefits and tax deductions under the new laws.

According to financial advisors, married same-sex couples may have to amend their old income tax returns, alter estate plans, retitle assets and decide which partner should officially own all other assets. In states that recognize same-sex marriage, one spouse may leave an unlimited amount of property in their will to the surviving spouse without incurring estate taxes. However, with 14 states now recognizing same-sex marriage, the couples need to understand the impact of these new laws.

In Washington, entering into a domestic partnership grants many benefits to the couple. These benefits include retirement and disability survivor benefits, access to health care records and participation in medical decisions, as well as the right to inherit from a partner. Similarly, when the couple decides to obtain a domestic partnership dissolution, the couple may have to deal with property division, spousal support, child custody and child support.

When the couple splits, the couple's property may be distributed equally between them. The higher earning spouse may be ordered by the court to pay alimony to the other spouse. If the couple has children, they may have to formulate a parenting plan and one of the spouses may also have to pay child support. However, as laws relating to domestic partnerships can be complex, the couple may need help in understanding them. The services of a legal professional may be helpful to the couple to help them understand their rights and the benefits available to them during the domestic partnership dissolution.

Source: Mainstreet.com, "Same-Sex Couples And Financial Planning," Farran Powell, Nov. 6, 2013

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